It’s an invisible threat, while Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are part of our daily lives, these Edcs are a great risk to public Health and public health systems. It is estimated that endocrine disruptors are responsible for higher female infertility in the region. As a result, €1.4 billion per year is allocated to address this issue.
The subject is not new. The EU began discussing the matter in 1996 during a conference in the UK. In 2000 the European Parliament approved a resolution which called EU authorities to identity endocrine disruptors so that further measures could be taken.
The European Commission was supposed to have published a list in December 2013. Failing to comply with the deadline, the Swedish government filed a suit before the European Court of Justice. The goal was to not only identify EDCs but also to phase them out. The court decided the Commission was in breach of law. Besides, it also declared that EDCs should be listed according to scientific data already available, without the need of further impact assessments.
Last month (June 2016), the Executive presented the scientific Criteria to identify EDCs. According to the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis:
The scientific criteria that the Commission is presenting today guarantee that the high level of protection of human health and of the environment set in our legislation on plant protection and biocidal products is maintained. The plant protection products and biocides’ legislation are among the strictest in the world because of their prior approval system, their extensive data requirements, and their hazard approach for decision making. The Commission reinforces today its commitment to protect health of people in European Union.
The criteria follow the definition of the World Health Organisation for endocrine disruptor, which is: an exogenous substance or mixture that alters function(s) of the endocrine system and consequently causes adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations”.
For advocates such as Genon Jensen, Executive Director of the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust, the pioneering efforts for establishing EDCs criteria might be tarnished if in the end they fail to identify hormone disruptors. One of the main factors that should facilitate the implementation of guidelines against EDCs is that many of them have been already identified by EU’s Reach.
It should be noted that identifying EDCs is just the first stage of a more comprehensive regulatory effort. We should not witness any EDCs bans so soon, especially for chemicals needed for food production purposes and for which there might be a lack of efficient alternatives.
The criteria made available last month displeased members of the Greens/EFA. They claim that the definition proposed by the Commission is very restrictive while it even sets out exemptions. According to Bas Eickhout:
the Commission is continuing to put the bottom line of a few agro-chemical companies ahead of public health. We will now have to build the necessary majorities in the Parliament to veto this shameful proposal.
The issue is far from being settled, more debates are expected on topics such as burden of proof and confused evidence. According to Paul Whaley, a researcher at Lancaster University, a compound can only be categorized as an EDC if it is “known to cause an adverse effect”, however there are no clear guidelines of how researchers should reach such conclusion. This breach might leave many EDCs virtually unregulated.